A bodybuilder’s advice for a great body

I interviewed an fascinating Chicagoan a few years ago, a female bodybuilder preparing for a bodybuilder competition. I think of her every May when I realize summer is not far off and I realize it’s I need to get serious about getting in shape.

When you think of female bodybuilders, perhaps you picture super-muscular oiled up women who resemble their male counterparts, but this gal was not one of those. There are different categories; one of these is the bikini category. This gal had a body that was model-like with impeccable posture; a lean, muscular body; toned with a flat stomach as well as a flattering tan plus made up pleasingly with healthy hair — basically, the total package. Internet ads taunt us: “Look good naked” — isn’t this what we all want. So let’s get to it!

Muscles look good on men and women, plus it feels good to be stronger. To tone up and build muscle, weight-lifting is the way to go. If you have fat to burn off too, add some cardio. If you don’t have much fat padding, it’s encouraging to see muscles show quickly. But no matter the shape you’re in, muscles will improve your look. The goal is to strive for tone and nice muscle definition all over the body for a symmetrical look. Younger and older, lean or not, everybody looks better with some muscle.

Below is what a female body builder does while in training to get a perfect body and win competitions. Granted, you probably won’t want to go this extreme – or maybe you will if you’re determined to look good in your swimsuit by summertime.

Bodybuilder exercise hacks:
My bodybuilder friend utilized the full variety of weight machines and treadmills offered at local gyms.

Furthermore, cardio exercise is very important to burn off fat and build stamina. While in training for a competition, she did 70 minutes of cardio, then a workout, alternating one to two muscle groups on a rotating schedule day by day.

I asked her what she would recommend to the average woman looking to tone up and slim down, especially the stubborn tummy area.  Her reply: “Everything you do has to do with the stomach.” That area of the body is also known by fitness enthusiasts as the “core.” Strengthen your core, folks, and your whole body will be stronger and improved in more ways than you know.

A bodybuilder’s diet:
Mind you, this is worlds away from how most people eat. Meals are small, very low in carbohydrates (only having carbohydrates with the first three meals of the day, usually including eggs and oatmeal), heavy on white fish and vegetables, and consumed every 2½ hours.

My friend’s advice: “Diet is 80%. You can workout until you are blue in the face seven days a week, but if you’re also eating McDonald’s everyday after your workout, you will achieve nothing. Eat six small meals a day instead of eating two to three big, fat ones. And keep it healthy — nothing out of a box (or can, usually): fresh, organic, whole foods. But you don’t have to go to Whole Foods and spend all of your money to achieve this.” Just shop wisely (differently) wherever you normally shop.

My girlfriend takes a variety of supplements, though she says she takes far fewer than many bodybuilders. Her regime is: fish oil (apparently fish is even more important than we thought for a good body), branch chain amino acids (which keep muscle on plus optimize digestion), acidophilus, a green food supplement (especially if you are eschewing fruit, which are pure carbohydrates, during your diet), plus a daily multi-vitamin-mineral, which we should all be taking.

Did you know bodybuilders strive to get loads of sleep? Nine to ten hours a night is considered ideal in their world. Plenty of Sleep is vital, because muscles need sleep time to refurbish after rigorous training.

Muscle Beach
Muscle Beach, California

So let’s say you’re invited to the beach or pool party. How confident will you feel? If you follow the above guidelines or a close variation, you will be more ready than you are today.

Another hint to looking good sparsely dressed: Get a tan. Before competitions, bodybuilders get a semi-permanent spray tan that lasts for days. A tanned look enhances muscle definition. Also before a show, some weight lifters carb deplete the last few weeks or days in advance. It’s also smart to workout with weights right before stepping onto the stage. You can do this too, right before your debut onto the stage of life this season, whether that be beach or poolside, donning your fashionable new swimsuit.

Your image – staying alive

You may wonder why I gave such a serious title to an article about image. Because it’s not only about image, it’s about your well-being. This is an important topic you may not want to be reminded about that affects your looks and your health: your stomach. And hopefully reading this will motivate you to get in shape in time for the summer season and improve your chances at longevity.

There are many causes of a big stomach, which can blight a man’s body or a woman’s. I don’t have to spell out how unattractive a disproportionately large belly is. But take heart: Whatever the cause, there is a solution; start by diagnosing the situation. In the meantime, cover it up or suck it in (sucking it in works your abdominal muscles, which may help a bit).

Overweight: Being overweight may or may not be your fault. If you feel you eat right and get enough exercise, you may want to ask your doctor to check for a sluggish thyroid. It’s more common in women than men, and more common than people think. Doctors don’t necessarily test for an under-active thyroid; it’s one of the most under-diagnosed medical conditions. If it turns out you have hypothyroidism, then going on thyroid medication to boost the thyroid’s performance can seem to melt fat off like magic as soon as you start.

If that is not your problem and you are simply overweight, cut down on carbohydrates, especially sugar. And don’t do bedtime snacks! While you sleep, HGH and IFG-1 work to keep your body youthful. If you eat within two to three hours of sleep time, neither HGH nor IFG-1 will get a chance to work properly on your behalf because your body will be too busy digesting. And bedtime snacking will cause other hormones to go awry too, leading your body to store fat, especially in the belly.

Out of shape: If you’re not necessarily overweight but you still have an unwanted stomach, get serious about your body and health. Because a big belly is not attractive on anybody, but even less attractive on an otherwise slim person. Start exercising; start today. Get disciplined and stick with it.

Bloated: Bloating looks bad. It can take an otherwise nice stomach and make you look like you’re carrying around a beach ball under your shirt. It doesn’t feel good either. Figure out why you are bloated – by researching, paying attention to how your body reacts to whatever you’re consuming and visiting your doctor – so that bloating can be alleviated. Certain foods and beverages can cause bloating, but so can a lot of other things, and a doctor, nutritionist or good internet research can help you figure it out and end it.

Health warning: A disproportionately bulging belly can signal an impending health crisis. In men this is especially important to address. Get a comprehensive checkup, including your heart. You want to stay alive, your friends and loved ones want you around – so tame your belly.

A big belly starts to behave like an extra organ in the body, a highly detrimental one. Like any organ, it strives to survive, keeping itself plump; and does this by creating hormonal imbalances that are bad for health in ways you likely have not even imagined, including body-wide inflammation which causes all manner of unwanted symptoms.

Guys and gals, ditch that belly, and not just so you will look better. Take care of your health so you can live long and strong; you only have one body in which to live life fully!

Bathing Beauty
Photo credit: Jim Goodpasture

Your image – body beautiful

Gals and guys, you may be good looking, but image mistakes can spoil your looks. Be aware of the following so you can always look your best. This is especially important with the advent of summer and wearing less clothing. It’s May already; get in shape now – and you will automatically get healthier while you strive to look better! Eating properly and getting lots of exercise is important. And following are some additional image tips.


Muffin top can strike men and women at any age, affecting those who are slim or heavy. Muffin top signals two things: 1) the accumulation of fat around the waist, lower back and hips and/or 2) you have outgrown your clothes or they have shrunk.

Instant Fix: Buy bigger bottoms, avoiding clothes that cause your hips to spill over. This includes hip-hugging undies which can show bulges beneath thinner fabrics. No matter what else you may decide to do about it, take yourself on a shopping spree so you can maintain a pleasing silhouette. Muffin top is fat out of control. While you’re getting it under control, you can still look good in bigger bottoms.

Body Fix: Lose the fat via diet and exercise.


A woman can look fabulous – until you get an eyeful of bra bulge that is distracting and can spoil an otherwise great look. Fat likes to sneak onto the upper back with stress, age, lack of fitness and even hormonal imbalance. Don’t let bra bulge compromise your look.

Fix it:

Lose that flab: First, visit your doctor to find out if your thyroid gland is working up to par. If it’s not, your doctor will prescribe something to fix it, which might also make your bra bulge disappear. Also, get regular cardio workouts to burn off stubborn back fat along with exercises with weights to firm up the back.

Bad bras: Even if you’re in good shape, maybe it’s time for new bras. Try on all your bras in the mirror under your tightest, thin fabric light-colored shirt, checking the side and back views. If you see bra bulge or if the bra isn’t fitting properly, it’s time for a bra fitting and new bras. Some department stores and specialty lingerie stores do it for free. Or you can determine your correct bra size yourself. It’s good to do this every so often, because as bodies change, things shift and sizes change. The best part of this process: buying cute new bras!


Nothing announces “older gal” like a crinkly cleavage. Check it out: push your breasts together while looking in the mirror. Do you have a wrinkly cleavage?

Fix it: The skin on the chest is some of the thinnest on the human body. Moisturize liberally and often. A heavy cream, like a neck cream, especially one specifically for crepey skin — but not a shiny one (which will draw attention to crinkly cleavage, even more so if you sweat) – could help considerably.


Check out your back in the mirror, bending and twisting to see how your back looks in any position. To wear a backless style, your back must be perfectly toned and, preferably, unblemished. A dermatologist can help. In any case, wearing a bra with a backless style, unless it’s cleverly concealed, is an eyesore. If you dare to go bare with a backless top or midriff top, do a back check well before you plan to leave the house in case you end up realizing it would be best to go with a different top.


Pantyhose camouflaged flaws and offered support, but no one wears them anymore.


Take a long scrutinizing look at your legs from all angles, preferably in natural daylight or a dressing room mirror. If you don’t feel you can show them off proudly, either fix them up or cover up. In any case, analyze your leg shape and size and find a clothing length that makes your legs look their best.

Instant fix: Cover up. You can still stay relatively cool wearing bare legs beneath your pants and long skirts. The more your feet are covered, the warmer you’ll stay, so consider pretty painted toenails and attractive sandals. In leg-baring styles, wear leg wear or footwear that obscures imperfect legs.

Body fix: Work out and tone, shave, exfoliate and moisturize your legs. There is cosmetic surgery to treat vein problems. Short of that, get a spray tan, use self-tanning products on legs, or even better, Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs or a similar product. Just make sure if you alter the color of your legs, the rest of the body matches.


Be ever-mindful of your posture. Stand up straight. Sit up straight. Set up your work and play areas ergonomically for good posture

Life got you down? Stop hunkering down; all is not lost. Straighten up and you will instantly feel more in control of your reality. Feel bad because of others’ behavior? Stand up straight anyhow! Do it for you! No matter what happens, shoulders back; chin up. Carry yourself with dignity. Practicing good posture sends a message to your brain that no matter how this world treats you, you are worthwhile.

Gravity taking its toll? Become energetic: Eat foods that fuel you; get proper sleep and exercise (especially posture techniques). A series of Rolfing or Hellerwork treatments will work wonders on posture. Upright posture acts like a body lift! Try it in the mirror unclothed and you’ll see: It can make you look trimmer, taking years off your looks.

The longer you live, the more important good posture becomes. You can prevent shrinking by lifting weights and getting your calcium along with vitamin D. If you don’t do dairy or get regular sunbaths, find calcium and vitamin D3 supplements you like and take religiously.

Do not allow the accumulated cares of life weigh you down with poor posture; liberate yourself from the baggage. Go on a personal quest to regain energy and enthusiasm for living. You are so worth it!

Your image – save face

Your image-save faceNo matter who you are, you feel better and perform better if you treat yourself with the respect to look your best. Do it for the world of eyes and all the cameras (especially in downtown Chicago) that see you when you are out and about. Do it for your partner or whomever you wish to please. But most of all, do it for you.

Wear Sunscreen

You’ve heard this a million times, and here it is again: Wearing sunscreen on your face, especially when you’re exposed to lots of sunshine, is important. This need not necessarily add one more beauty step to your daily routine; many moisturizers double as sunscreens.

Lay the Foundation

If you wear foundation, which not only enhances your skin but protects it from the elements, your foundation should match your neck color. When buying foundation, test colors in as natural a light as possible (indirect daylight in a neutral colored setting is the best). When you see someone whose face is a different color than their neck, it’s as distracting as if they’re wearing a mask. This is harder to control in the summer when you have different degrees of tan.

Stop Worrying

Worry causes all sorts of wrinkles in places you might not realize. If you catch a glimpse at yourself in the mirror when you’re anxious, you’ll see it: notice what you’re doing to your face and neck; worry wrinkles occur from one’s forehead through the neck. Clenching your jaw when uptight or grinding your teeth can also change ones neck line over time.

Stop Frowning

Tell yourself this, as often as you catch yourself frowning or about to frown: Nothing and nobody is worth frowning for, so there! There may be plenty in life tempts you to frown, but resist! You’ll thank yourself later in life. Some guys tell their girlfriends, “Honey, you look cute when you’re angry.” But anger really isn’t pretty: On little girls, it’s scary; on older women, frightening. Learn how to eliminate anger. Develop the capacity to forgive. Practice appreciation. Explore the possibility of inner peace. It may be a lifelong quest, but worth it – and good for your face.

Stop Squinting

Remember to wear your glasses. Squinting crinkles the delicate skin around the eyes. This area doesn’t have much natural collagen or elasticity to begin with. Don’t make it any worse by squinting. Those having eyes sensitive to bright light should always carry sunglasses.

Lovely Lips

You’ve heard it before: Smoking causes wrinkles around the lips, as does drinking through a straw. But here’s something else that does so as well, and tens of thousands of people do this daily: Drinking out of a narrow-neck water bottle, the standard water bottle that most folks drink from. Look at yourself in the mirror and drink out of a water bottle. You’ll see your lips are overly-pursed. The same goes for any similarly shaped bottle. Only purse your lips for kissing.

Fountain of Youth

Eventually, the faces you make reacting to life — judging, anger, pouting, evil eyes, etc. — are going to be etched into your face and become your face when you are older. Fortunately, there are some youth and beauty serums available to anybody; they are priceless but everyone can afford them: Tolerance, appreciation, peace of mind and best of all, eyes that shine with love and kindness. Start practicing these today for a happier and more beautiful you.

Rock out with THUMBKNUCKLE

THUMBKNUCKLE — mixing rock, blues, funk, country and its own genre-defying originals — made its debut on the Chicago music scene in April of 2011 at Lilly’s. THUMBKNUCKLE was born of a handful of musicians who had played together in other bands over the years and were ready to start fresh spreading good times and good music around Chicagoland: Toe-tapping, finger-snapping, head-bopping, danceable music.

Band members (in alphabetical order) are:THUMBKNUCKLE logo
Tim Alesi: drums, backup vocals
Dean Bolz: bass, backup vocals
Paul Stephani: lead guitar
Mark Stumpf: keyboards, lead vocals
Dennis Voges: drums, lead vocals

Tim “T Bone’s on the skins!” started playing drums when he was only 10 and was already performing in clubs by age 15. He’s been in more than one local band, most notably The Bad Boys. Tim cites the rock music of the 60’s and 70’s as his inspiration.

Dean “the Machine” who has been playing the bass for decades says he didn’t originally know what a bass was. He was at a party where some musicians were playing but they were missing a bass player. Dean volunteered and someone handed him a bass and showed him the ropes. Since then he’s played bass in many local area bands throughout the years such as Pump-N Ethel, Eddie and the Pizzalas, The Bootleggers and Soulified to name just a few.

Paulie a/k/a the “Blue Dragon” has been in several bands over the past 25 years. He says, “I love making sounds with my guitar,” and those of us lucky enough to have heard him know exactly what he’s talking about; he’s a phenomenal guitarist who can play any genre of music.

Mark a/k/a/ “88” got familiar with the family piano as he grew up and started jamming with his Indiana friends, The Shelby Brothers. In Chicago’s Old Town, he was a member of the house band Fish and the Blue Fins at John Beluschi’s U.S. Blues for five years. Since then, Mark has been a part of several bands including the LaSalle Band and Tango Ridge.

Dennis “Denny Deluxe” is from small town Indiana where he encountered his first drum set around age 10; he got a strong feeling about the drums at that time, but shrugged it off. Many years later, he felt the irresistible urge to finally give in and buy some drums. Subsequently he discovered, at a Baptist church, that he could also sing. Throughout the years, he’s been in many bands and is a regular at open mic sessions all over Chicagoland.

These guys’ lives have intertwined since they were young. Tim was only 13 when he met teenage Dean, already a musician. They played together in a band called Blucifer. Dean and Mark were both in the Bob Goode Blues Band. Dean, Paulie and Mark were also together in Best Kept Secret and Well Hung Jury. And everyone has played with Denny here and there. So this is much like a band of brothers.

Where can you catch THUMBKNUCKLE in action? At Smilin’ Jim’s Saloon where they kick off and host an open mic jam the first Friday night of each month. Mark your calendars: The next one is coming right up Friday, May 5. Musicians are welcome along with music lovers. This is a rockin’ good time guaranteed to start your weekend off on a high note. THUMBKNUCKLE also has an upcoming show June 17 at At Work Sports Bar.

Make it a point to catch THUMBKNUCKLE in person. THUMBKNUCKLE seriously rocks!

Dive into Chicago with me


My E.com article

Welcome to my blog! For years, starting in 2010, I had my own column writing for Examiner.com. The topic I chose to write about was Chicago: places, people and events. I live right in the heart of downtown and I love this city and this lifestyle.

For instance, my husband and I can walk to and from our jobs in the Loop; we walk a couple of blocks to Grant Park and all that has to offer (especially in the summertime when Grant Park and its neighbor Millennium Park host loads of free live music and other entertainment events); a little further, and we find ourselves on the lakefront, perhaps riding the bike path or at the beach sunning. And State Street, “that great street,” famous for shopping and Frank Sinatra’s song, is steps away! Before our neighborhood got more built up, whereupon it became the biggest campus area in the country, we had a view of the lake and Buckingham Fountain from our windows. We still have a breath-taking view of Willis Tower from our patio-style rooftop. Train stations surround us, so commuting to almost any place within the city limits or beyond is easy.

It’s costly; it’s noisy; there’s heavy traffic. Where we live used to be the safest neighborhood in the city, according to the Chicago Police Department when they were located just blocks away — though now it’s not as safe as it used to be (unfortunately, a Chicago-wide trend lately). But it’s worth it because one gets spoiled surrounded by a life that’s hip and happening, bursting with all that’s new and exciting – be that new venues opening, parades or protests marching by or marathons passing through, the latest popular plays, not to mention everything that happens in the summertime when Chicago becomes a tourist town. Downtown Chicago is where it’s at! When we leave the city and later return, we gaze lovingly at the famous skyline upon our approach and are proud to call this city “home.”

So back to the days I had a column on Examiner.com. I wrote for them until they folded in 2016. They were acquired or turned into another entity which subsequently took down the whole website. All my 100+ articles written over six years’ time disappeared into the black hole of cyberspace. Not only mine – apparently thousands of writers wrote for them and had the same experience. I want to take this chance to thank them anyhow for giving me my start writing online. And I also thank my followers, especially my loyal subscribers, for our many years together. Let’s start afresh here!

Granted, because things change quickly – restaurants open and close, shops come and go – some of my articles fell out of date. But many of them are still as relevant as ever and always will be! I occasionally sprinkled my column with off-topic articles as well – the type of articles meant to enhance life, no matter if you live in Chicago or in the remotest area of the world.

So in this blog I am re-purposing and re-posting my articles. Be aware you may stumble across some of my articles elsewhere. Someone has pirated just about every article I wrote for Examiner.com and slapped them on other websites. (Shame, shame!) I’ve got my eye on that situation.

Do stay tuned right here learn all about Chicago, so you can be at the hot spots – maybe we’ll even run into each other! Better yet, subscribe to keep your finger on the pulse of where it’s at. Even if you don’t live in Chicago, you may visit some day; and when you do, if you’ve been reading my articles, you’ll feel right at home navigating one of the most exciting cities in the world.

Now let’s dive into Chicago!

Bean in the Distant